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The idea of "Ex Corde Ecclesiae" and
Research of Vietnamese Folk Culture

Rev Joseph Vu Kim Chinh, SJ
Professor of Fujen Catholic University, Taiwan

I. Introduction

As Vietnamese Catholics, we are concerned with research of the identity of Vietnamese culture. Facing the present situation we must admit that it is a difficult task, because there is no Catholic University in Vietnam. On the other hand, there are many scholars working in different universities inside and outside of Vietnam and all over the world. What is the guideline for our concern and research of Vietnamese culture-identity? In this paper we intend to explore the apostolic constitution "Ex Corde Ecclesiea" issued by Pope John Paul II in 1990 as the basis which helps us Christians to orient ourselves, to dialogue and to cooperate with those who are trying to do research of Vietnamese culture.

What is Vietnamese culture? This question leads us on the one hand to identify the place of Vietnam related to its cultural backgrounds, and on the other hand to limit the range of discussion to present day researches. Normally foreign scholars classified Vietnamese folk culture under "Indochina". This folk culture belongs to and is situated between two big traditional and significant classical cultures: India and China. In the summary of the "L'Ecole Francaise d'Extreme Orient depuis sur origine jusqu'en 1920" we find this statement: "Not like China and India, which exist as particular folk and proper culture and are worthy to be investigated..., it seems that Indochina is only a mixture of different cultures and folks, which do not have roots nor a center in themselves". On the other hand, the French scholar G. Coedes, 20 years after the publication of this summary recognized in the same Research Center that threr is a common cultural good of South East Asia. His book "Les Peuples de la Peninsule Indochinoise" reconfirmed once this point of view. Furthermore, at the beginning of the 80's UNESCO established an organization "The Advisory Committee for the Study of South East Asian Cultures" to explore the cultures of this area. This divergency of classification shows that there is a lot of scientific research to be done. It is true that there is a common matrix of cultures for China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Therefore we respect and esteem many scholars who try to trace the common cultural roots of these countries, although such a search might give rise to the impression, that the later three are only satelite cultures of China. Does the Vietnamese people have its own culture? There would be different ways to explore it. We are interested here to discover genuine Vietnamese folk culture which is expressed in different ways by the people of today and which is strongly related to their life. How can such an interest find orientation from the Apostolic Constitution "Ex Corde Ecclesiae"?

 

II. The apostolic constitution "Ex Corde Ecclesiae"

In August 1990 Pope John Paul II issued the Apostolic Constitution "Ex Corde ecclesiae" as a cristalization of the spirit of Vatican II about education. Although Vatican II drew up the declaration on Christian Education "Gravissimum Educationis" concerned with general guidelines for education, its spirit and orientation are rooted in that magna charta of Vatican II, namely the Pastoral Constitution "Gaudium et Spes". Concerning humanity it speaks in terms of the common ground on which everybody exists and on which everybody can share responsibility. The Church, according to the Council, desires to establish a bridge with "all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way". This conviction rests on the belief that the Spirit of the Lord is leading the world and individuals through the "signs of time", signs which the people of God should recognize as elements of God's presence and manifestations of His Will. Thus, every person is called to become fully human, made in God's image. In the Encyclical "Pacem in Terris" Pope John XXIII considered already the important role of the "person" as the foundation for renewal and sign for hope. The human person is created in God's image, but in the process of history the person is likewise recognized as fallen and as redeemed by Christ. Thanks to the salvation plan of God, the human person once again regained its dignity, which is expressed in the freedom of the mind, in search for truth and wisdom. Thus, the concept of person is the central link between the doctrine concerning humanity and the doctrine concerning God. It is in this context that the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church "Lumen Gentium" of Vatican II expresses the deep and wider dimensions for renewal of the Church, living in the same world with our "neighbors", whoever they may be: other religious people or atheist; a renewed church "gives closer attention to the modern life and human society, special consideration is given to those questions and problems which..., seem to have a greater urgency in our day". (Gs.n46.)

Among the most urgent matters of our day, Vatican II pays special attention to "culture" and how to develop it "properly". "It is one of the properties of the human person that he or she can achieve true and full humanity only by means of culture, that is through the cultivation of the goods and values of nature" (GS. N53). Men and women are authors of culture. Human beings enjoy the works and spiritual experiences transmitted through the ages. Born in a given cultural heritage, he or she studies to discover its foundations, so that they can improve their customs and institutions, in order to increase the spiritual and moral maturity of mankind. "Culture must evolve today in such a way that it will develop the whole human person harmoniously and integrally, and will help all men to fulfill the tasks to which they are called, especially Christians who are fraternally united at the heart of the human family" (GS.n.56).

In the declaration "Gravissimum Educationis" the Council emphasized the right education for everybody and elaborated the providing of education on different levels of ages and in various fields. This orientation is applied concretely in "The Catholic School", issued by the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, in 1977.

The publication of "Ex Corde Ecclesiae" elaborates the idea of Vatican II both in the systematic as well in an applied way. The document expresses a deep concern for the identity and role of the Catholic University, present inside the church and in the midst of society. The task of such university is not only to promote a catholic intellectual life caring for integration of faith and science, but also to try to widen its horizon by entering into dialogue with every culture. "With every other university it (the Catholic university) shares that gaudium de veritate, so precious to St. Augustine, which is that joy of searching for discovering and communicating truth in every field of knowledge". This concern is realized through "aufheben" antithetical orders of reality in a more profound and integral unity, i.e. the whole truth about nature, humanity (human person) and God. "The logos, whose spirit of intelligence and love enables the human person with his or her own intelligence to find the ultimate reality of which he is the source and end and who alone is capable of giving fully that wisdom which the future of the world would be in danger". Here we can recognize again the esteem of the dignity of the human mind, truth and wisdom which is presented in "Gaudium et Spes". The human mind, as wisdom, reaches beyond the phenomena attaining the profound and genuine reality which cannot be perceived by the senses. That is the true meaning of both philosophy and theology. Engaging in wisdom, the human person passes through visible realities to those which are unseen. In this sense, every research is a possibility of self-transcendence. In other words, in the light of "intellege ut credas; crede ut intellegas" a Christian, working in a university or involved in any research, enables the church "to institute an incomparably fertile dialogue with people of every culture". With different angles (emphasis) the idea of "person" occupies a special place in the thoughts of Pope John Paul II, especially in the context of "search for meaning" in the modern society, in different cultures. The Apostolic Constitution is composed of two parts: Firstly, identity and mission of the Catholic university, and secondly, general norms for its governance. What is said here, I suppose would be understood at least as orientation for any Catholic intellectual organization or even for researchers, both individual and collective, because their activities are connected more or less with the Catholic academic community. Thus, the name "Catholic university" here in this Apostolic Constitution could be understood in a larger sense. Its identity is defined as "an academic community which, in a rigorous and critical fashion, assists in the protection and advancement of human dignity and of a cultural heritage through research, teaching and various services offered to the local, national and inter-national communities. Its task is enclosed in the following:

(a) search for an integration of knowledge

(b) a dialogue between faith and reason

(c) an ethical concern

(d) a theological perspective

Among the assignments, dialogue with its own culture is an urgent mission of an academic community. With its own rich religious culture, a Catholic university is ready to share and at the same time to learn from any culture. In appreciating diverse cultures, a Catholic researcher tries to know them accurately, with both positive and negative aspects, to integrate them into a fuller vision of truth and to make faith better understood in a particular culture. In other words, a Catholic university promotes positive aspects of culture which help the human person to discover the meaning of life, to assert human dignity and enable access to the transcendent. In short: "the Christian researcher should demonstrate the way in which human intelligence is enriched by the higher truth that comes from the Gospel".

While most scholars received the first part of "Ex Corde Ecclesiae" sympathetically and gratefully, they met the second part with difficulties. Degree of obstacles depend on the situation encountered in different political and cultural systems throughout the world. In the present context of Vietnam, the most relevant question for us seems to be: how can the idea of "Ex Corde Ecclesiae" serve as an orientation for research on Vietnamese culture in general, and as in this paper, for folk culture in particular?

 

III. Research on Vietnamese Folk Culture

Folklore means folk learning: it comprehends all knowledge that is transmitted by word of mouth and all crafts and techniques that are learned by imitation or example, as well as the products of those crafts. In primitive, non-literate societies folklore is virtually identified with culture as such. In literate societies folklore is a section of culture. This part of culture could be a lower underlying phenomenon, where daily life of a folk is controlled and subdued by a dictating power. It is, however, not destroyed, but wrestles for survival and waits for its opportune time for active flourishing. There is a passive resistance of Vietnamese folklore, living in folk culture both through non-written and written ways, during the foreign domination or local dictatorship. Folk culture includes folk art, folk crafts and folk tools which are very important for the reconstruction of folk culture, when this is no longer directly reachable. Such are the precious artifacts discovered by French archaeologists in the 1930-1950s in Vietnam. Folklore is carried on effectively by verbal transmission, i.e, folk tales, legends, myths, proverbs, riddles, poetry rooted in the wisdom of a folk, orally transmitted and becoming a popular treasure for future generations. This is a very significant treasure for Vietnamese culture because Vietnam acquired very lately its script in a simple and easily accessible way. Of course, there is often also the case of folklore and erudite documents intermingling and supplementing with each other, in order to express the spirit of a folk in its own special way. Folklore is culminated in a living way, expressed as custom, belief, custom, recipes, music, dance and games. These are the most evident phenomena of folk culture, through which it manifests its underlying source of life. In short, in order to know folk culture, it is necessary to come in contact, directly or indirectly, with its data. Then it is necessary to find out its common codes so that a sound reconstruction can be made. The words of Claude Levi-Strauss may help us in approaching a folk culture: "Contra the theoretician, the observer should always have the last word, and against the observe, the native. Finally, behind the rationalized interpretations of the native?one [must] look for the 'unconscious categories' which? are determinants 'in magic, as in religion, as in linguistics'".

 

1. Present state of the research of Vietnamese folk culture:

In order to know the present situation of research about folk culture in Vietnam, it is helpful to know who they are, and what they did. Then looking closely at the phenomenon of "Phu Dong Thien Vuong" or "Thanh Dong", we will analyze how the folk tale is living in the annual ceremony of the feast and how scholars interpret it.

 

a) About Researchers of Folk Culture in Vietnam

In the book "Researchers of Folk Culture" Nguyen Xuan Kinh worked with his team of six scholars to collect autobiographies of researchers in Vietnam and to estimate their works and their influences. As they say in the introduction: "to edit a list of those who dedicate their efforts to study folk culture, to evaluate their contribution of both successful and unsuccessful experiences which may serve as a forerunner preparing the way for those who look for truthfulness in this matter". The first part of the book elaborates carefully fourteen well-known scholars of folk culture in Vietnam. Beside their political activity in the communist party, their dedication to research, and their expertise is also well recorded. At the end of the presentation of each author, there is a list of his books, followed by a second list of books which he wrote with other, concluded with articles published in periodicals. Looking at them, we recognize that all are members of the Vietnamese Communist Party or received a mission given by the party. That already indicates the orientation of their works. Most of them are theoreticians, engaged however in research of different fields of folklore. For example: folktales (Nguyen Dong Chi); "Cheo" (folktheatre) (Ha Van Cau); puppetry (Nguyen Huy Hong); folk ethnic minorities (Vu Quang Nhon)... The time span of their collection of researches is limited, from 1945 until now. In the second part they collect a list of another one hundred fourteen scholars who teach in different universities the subject of folk culture of direct certain research centers in local provinces, with a short biography and a list of publication. Most of them are rather young people; included in the list are also a number of women who are interested in feminist subjects. Full of plan, they engage in discovering folk culture in their surrounding life. Their works are colored through geographical, racial specialty overall in Vietnam and through a creative variety of topics (feast, folk tale, riddles, myths...).

The list of hundred twenty eight authors is far from being a complete list, as Nguyen Xuan Kinh and his acknowledge. For scholars who belonged to the ancient regime or to the former South Vietnam, are forgotten or only mentioned superficially or removed out of folk culture (like Cu Sau, Huynh Tinh Cua, Nguyen Van Ngoc, Pham Van Quynh, Toan Anh, Dinh Van Trung...). It would be surprising for them too, when they could discover a new phenomenal of researching folklore outside of Vietnam, since you find Vietnamese scattered all over the world. The study of folk culture appears as a hopeful sign, not only because there is such a great number of researchers, and rich diversity of research topics, but they have also certain institutions established in different provinces in Vietnam. Besides, the researchers in Vietnam see the need to open up to related sciences and to contacts with researchers from outside of Vietnam. This will be more urgent, especially when Vietnam becomes a member of Asian organizations. After this global view, it would be interesting to look-by way of some examples-into the results of researches.

 

(b) "The Treasure of Vietnamese Folk Poetry"

Vietnamese language with its peculiarities plays a special role in folk culture. According to semantics, language is composed of three elements: sign, rules and performance. Signs are script or vocal expressions. The first forms of writing seem to have been Chinese characters which came to Vietnam with the Trieu dynasty (202-111 B.C). The Chinese characters were hard to learn and would be accessible only to a few learned people. As a consequence, Vietnamese language, before using Latin letters for writing, was practically for a long time, for most of the population only the oral language. That is the reason why folklores, especially folk poetry play a very important role in the life of people. Nevertheless, we are still surprised to find an enormous collection of four volumes with 2,779 pages, arranged in alphabetical order both for poem, as well as for topics. The research team acknowledges that there are a lot of collected and selected works which have been published before and which they use as reference, analyzing them, comparing them so that a scientific valuation of folk poetry could be made. There are thirty seven such works, making up forty six volumes, included are also many articles dating from the end of the eighteenth century until 1975, with 11,825 verses. It is worthy to note that the contents of folk poetry present not only the verses, but also their changed words according to different editions.

For examples:

    Ai oi! cho voi cuoi nhau
    Ngam minh cho to, truoc sau se cuoi (in: Nam am su loai II.42b)

Other versions:

    Ngam minh cho to, truoc sau hay cuoi (Thi ca binh dan, Vietnam, tap I.697; Tuc Ngu Phong Dao I.16)

    Gam minh cho ky, truoc sau hay cuoi (Tuc Ngu Phong Dao tap I; Hop Tuyen The Van Vietnam 226)

    Gam minh cho tron, mai sau hay cuoi (Dai Nam Quoc Tuy, 100a)

    Ngam minh cho to, truoc sau se cuoi (Huong Hoa Dat Nuoc 259).

 

As we see, changed words are modified according to Vietnamese dialects (local speech) or by refined moral teaching. They become really a treasure of Vietnamese folk culture. In the second part of the fourth volume, the authors collected up different commentaries of scholars, with different historical backgrounds. For example, P. 2577-2625, also nearly 50 pages deal with the poem "Thang Bom co cai quat mo", it is a well-known popular ironical dialogue and bargain between a poor young man and a rich owner. Ten comments are presented, as discussion, analysis, or simple expression of feelings. The writers are well known, among them : Tran Thanh Mai, Ngo Quan Niem, Tran Duc Thao, Vu Quoc Thuc... Alongside with such enormous works, we can find also studies of smaller size, like: "Folktales of Professions", "Old Town Hoi An", "Quan Thanh of old time and today"... Smaller size, however, does not mean lower significance.

 

2. Analysis of the Folktale "Phu Dong Thien Vuong" or "Thanh Dong"

Phu Dong Thien Vuong or Thanh Dong (The Holy of the village Dong) is chosen to be as an excellent example of study, because this folktale is one of the most popular stories; it connects not only with Vietnamese historical development, but also with the annual festival ceremony of some places. Besides, this tale was registered as the ninth of twenty two of stories collected in the Linh Nam Chich Quai; thus, the tale was not only transmitted orally through generations like most other folktales, but became one of the written document in the fourteenth century. According to this document, the tale has its historical roots back with the third King of Hung Vuong Dynasty.

Thach Phuong and Le Trung Vu collected sixty significant feasts, celebrated every year in different parts of Vietnam. Besides there are also eighteen feasts of minority folk. Phu Dong Thien Vuong, one of these feasts, is called "Annual Memorial Services for the Knight of Heaven". In the appendix (II) there is a summary translation: a short narrative, main topics and activities of celebration in Dong- village, but also in its neighborhood in the vicinity of Ha Noi and Ha-Tay. The celebration has a preparation in Soc Son, Bo Dau. In Dong village itself the preparation begins one month before, like registration, exercise.... the main celebration begins with April 6 and reaches the peak on the 9th, its closing ceremony lasts from 10th to 12th April. In such a solemnity one can see the harmonious fusion between village and nation, between past and present, expressed in powerful symbols, games, dances and transmitted through generations. G. Dumoutier described his strong impression, when he attended the feast of "The Divine Knight of Village Dong" in the year 1893; he reported the event with astonished impression that the feast changes totally the behavior of the peasants: in daily life thy are afraid, and here they become self assured as if the religious feast transformed them.

The oldest text of this story is found in the book of Linh Nam Chich Quai, as we mention above, written by Tran The Phap, reconstructed by Vu Quynh under the name "Dong Thien Vuong". Nguyen Dang Truc in his book "Van hien, Nen tang cua minh Triet", approaches the story with an analysis of its literary-form: to find out the importance in the context, the redaction of the story itself, and the interpretation of its content according to the trilogy: Heaven, Human Being and Earth. In the story, King Hung Vuong III and with him the prosperous and peaceful kingdom Van Lang were threatened by the An Dynasty. Confronted with such a dangerous war, they built an altar and prayed sincerely for three days. Heaven answered their prayer by sending, first, Long Quan to predict how to protect the kingdom and then, Phu Dong Thien Vuong who helped Van Lang to dissolve the invasion of An Dynasty and restore peace in the Kingdom. Nguyen Dang Truc finds the meaning of the folktale in relation to the dimension of Heaven, and he concludes: "Open up to heaven means to accept the ultimate which is not defined according to human thought... Human words like Absolute, Lac Long source, which left behind these signs like footsteps on the rock". In short, the "gift" from heaven helps people to resolve conflicts and to regain harmony between Heaven - Man - Earth.

Cao Huy Dinh, one of the most significant Marxist folklores explorers, approaches the phenomenon in an other way. Although he recognizes the support of a written document as a objective literary proof , he studies the tale in marxist way. On the one hand , he collects currently told stories with their variation in North Vietnam and tries to arrange them into a systematic whole. On the other hand, he tries to melt the historical development of the folktale into the marxist world-view, which sees human history as a necessary process going through class- struggle up to the triumph of the prolitariat. He interprets the "Soul" of the people (or Nguyen Dang Truc would call it "Big Memory") as "the power of the people who participate to grow, to strenghthen the nation and to push imperialism towards decline". Accordingly, he divided the history of folk culture into different phases: the beginning and developing period, ancient period (from 7 BC to 11 AD century), empire establishment (from 11 to 15century), empire decline (from 15 to 16 century) and after August-Revolution(1945) period. In every period a special kind of folklore dominates and guides the soul of the people. Concerning the folktale "Thanh Dong" (the name given to Phu Dong Thien Vuong to get Him down to the peasant, and it means the Holy (divine Hero) of the village Dong, he interpretes Thanh Dong as a significant symbol of a hero who fights against invasion of a foreign power. According to Cao Huy Dinh, folktale Thanh Dong synthesizes three literature forms: fairytale, historical tale and heroic hymn. He is convinced that the tale begins with a story of the tribe and becomes a national hero, so that it can be identified with the spirit of folk both on the local and national levels.

 

IV. Reflection about an Orientation for Research of Vietnamese Folk Culture

Following the tendency to study folklore in a way promoted in former Soviet Union since 1936, the Vietnamese Communist Party, like other communist countries, believed in the effectiveness of folklore as a political weapon. In year 1943 the Vietnamese Communist Party issued the document "Proposal for Vietnamese Culture" (De Cuong Van Hoa Vietnam) which gives a guideline to find out the relationship between culture, economic and political life. It contains three principles: Nationalization, Popularization and Scientification. Along the same orientation, Truong Chinh formed a Marxist manifest on Vietnamese culture in July 1948 in the second national conference on culture. He states: "Beside the erudite (learned) culture transmitted through generations, there is a folk culture which remained in proverbs, riddles, folk poetry, folk tales, folk art... This culture expresses the struggle of workers, aspiration and a resilient will of folk against superstition, bad custom, or in order to promote good things. This is a very precious treasure to which our cultural researchers, historians and archeologists should dedicate time and effort to discover it". They identify such folk culture with national power which is transmitted through generations and can be discovered and complemented in Marxism which is declared as scientific direction. This guideline has continued to be until the present in Vietnam the criterion for discussion and the promotion of research.

In their research, these specialists reversed earlier theories that regarded folklore as a product of the upper classes filtering down to the lower classes, and claimed that the working people were the creators of folklore. The working method and process to discover and reconstruct Vietnamese folk culture rely on the direction given by the Russian Marxist folklorist J. V. Propp. V. Propp's main work "Morphology" which was written in the year 1928, received little attention outside of Russia, until Roman Jacobson translated it in to English 1958, Propp's "Morphology" is "the description of the folktale according to its component parts and the relationship of these components to each other and to the whole". Like any other Marxist, Propp emphasizes the historical dimension which combines these steps: source, transformation into tale and its "actions", (or functions). To create his morphology, Propp first distinguished between the "variables" and "invariables" of his system of tales. While source and formation of folktales are variable according to each folk and different epoches, actions or functions of tales are invariable. Cao Huy Dinh applied this theory to his "Research for a Development of Vietnamese Folk Culture" and "The Hero of Village Dong". He tries to find out different tales transmitted orally around North Vietnam triangle land and through the help of different anthropological materials, he proposes a hypothesis that the source could be the outstanding symbol in a tribe, which becomes a hero figure in the tale and lastly becomes an historical figure for the whole folk tale. His action is always along the line of rescuing the people from foreign invasions. In short, Cao Huy Dinh analyses such significant tales, like two Sisters Tam Cam, Trau Cau, The Lady To Thi, Cay Khe (Star fruit tree). The Young Wife of Tu Xuong,... and finds out the progress of tales which goes along with the development of Vietnamese folk history. He combines the motive of each tale with the Marxist motive: social struggle for international liberation of each nation.

It is interesting to note that the method and thoughts of Propp are discussed first by Claude Levi-Strauss. Levi-Strauss calls this approach "structural". He finds sympathy with Propp's "Morphology" rather than with the Marxist view. "Propp pays attention to the sequence organization of all elements in the narrative. Levi-Strauss throws this requirement to the wind and transforms that weakness into an apparent strength by making it central to the methodology of structuralism". In short: instead of a formal organization of sequence in a linear chronological ordering like Propp's model, Levi-Strauss pleads for structural composition. His structural anthropology is rooted on the most important premise: phenomenal realities, including cultural artifacts, are always reducible to a common infrastructure. The root for this universal collective and hidden reality is called "the unconscious brain". This unconsciousness manifests its power not through class-struggle, but rather in a "gift", i.e. a way of integrating the opposition between self and other. Therefore there are three principles of the unconscious:

    The exigency of the rule as a rule

    2) The notion of reciprocity regarded as the most immediate form of integrating the opposition between the self and others

    3) The synthetic nature of the gift, i.e. that the agreed transfer of a valuable from one individual to another makes these individuals into partners, and adds an new quality to the value transferred.

 

The first principle serves as a means of differentiation of the human mind: the second as a means of reconciliation and the third as a means of unity. These three principles account for the possibility of an ordered transition from social conflict to partnership. On the one hand, it seems that Levi-Strauss like Propp stresses the structural elements and their relation to each other as a whole, but on the other hand, there is an evident difference between them, that "linguistics furnishes a primary model for a general anthropological theory".

Levi-Strauss distinguishes between "language" and "parole" ("word") which are analogous with unconsciousness and consciousness. Language like myth are the products of the same unconscious structures, also they reveal qualitative determinants and invariant structures: while parole is expressed in understandable representation, also in a calculable way. Thus, a myth consists of all its available variations which are emerging diachronically in history in forms of "parole". Therefore, myth and science are not different stages in the development of the human mind, but rather two strategic levels at which nature is accessible to scientific inquiry. Maybe it is accurate to say that myth is more tied to sensible perception than science. On the other hand, symbolic representation used in myth is not just expressing a relation between man and the natural world, but manifesting the ultimate discontinuity of nature. Such are arts, feast, games, rites... etc. In short: myth is, according to Levi-Strauss, on a higher level either language or parole, for it takes part in both.

Levi-Strauss use of Propp's method and theory in a creative way may help us to approach the research of Vietnamese scholars in Vietnam and cooperate with them in the interpretation of the cultural treasures. The essential task which the apostolic constitution "EX Corde Ecclesiae" expressed, is: "search for an integration of knowledge" which serves as a ground for a fruitful "dialog between faith and reason" and yields to an "ethical concern" and leads to "theological reflection". Levi-Strauss structuralism gains from dialogue with Propp's Marxist anthropology some fruit for human integration: the hidden power of unconsciousness is manifested in human history, not in "class-struggle" but rather as a "gift", a way of integrating the tension between self and the other. Analyzing Vietnamese history, a history written mostly under domination of foreign power and wars, also in controversies and conflicts, we recognize that Vietnam learned how to cooperate with powerful enemies in order to co-exist. This wisdom turns out to be a precious gift for later generations. Promoting integral knowledge means caring dialogue, especial with opposite point-of-views, so that complete human knowledge is not a result of arbitrary compromise, but a precious fruit of "Gaudium de Veritate". The process of integral knowledge is pluralistic: it could be a linear development or discovered on different levels which appears dia-chronologically or synchronologically, or in a dialectical way. That is an amazing co-existence between folklore and erudite culture, especially in Vietnam. They both serve as means for caring ethical values in its own way. Until now, Vietnamese philosophers and theologians try to elaborate erudite culture to serve as a foundation for theological inculturation in Vietnam, it is great and right. The point of view of folk culture can , however, become-I think-an another, not less important means for searching for a Vietnamese liberation theology which counts on the people and builds up from folk wisdom.

 

    Taiwan, 1997
    Rev Vu Kim Chinh, Professor of Fujen Catholic University, Taiwan

 

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